Agard brace not enough...
Super sub Kieran Agard was the catalyst for Rotherham United’s stirring late fightback against local rivals Barnsley, but his brace was not enough to prevent defeat.
Following an encouraging pre-season campaign to date, Steve Evans reshuffled his pack for the visit of the Championship outfit for their final friendly.
The Rotherham supremo will undoubtedly have had an eye on next week’s League One opener at Crewe with Kari Arnason and Claude Davis forming the central defensive partnership.
Michael Tidser was given an opportunity to make an impact joining the returning Lee Frecklington in the middle of the park while Danny Hylton was handed a chance to stake a claim upfront with Alex Revell.
Ex-Miller Chris O’Grady lined up for the visitors’ while Jacob Mellis returned to the NYS after being the first ever scorer at the ground in the equivalent friendly last year.
The visitors had the first sight of the home goal when Arnason dallied in possession on the edge of his own box and O’Grady nearly capitalised but Scott Shearer was alert to snuff out the danger.
Moments later, Chris Dagnall’s daisy-cutter from distance was comfortably gathered by the home ‘keeper before Rotherham had their first attack of note when Ben Pringle’s arrowed centre saw Revell climb highest but his downward header was straight at Luke Steele.
Frecklington then pounced on a Revell knockdown before trying his luck from distance but the ball whistled past the upright before Revell glanced a header harmlessly wide of the target following David Worrall’s outswinging centre.
Just past the half-hour mark, Worrall dragged a low shot well wide when he spurned better options infield before the Millers’ came within a whisker of the opener when Tidser picked up possession in an inviting position before firing a rasping effort from distance which rattled the visitors’ crossbar.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 0 Barnsley 0
The Millers’ fans were given a boost at the interval when it was confirmed long-term strike target Matt Tubbs had put pen-to-paper on a six-month loan deal from Bournemouth, as he was introduced to the home faithful.
However, Barnsley caught the home side napping by taking the lead just seconds into the second stanza.
After Dagnall was bundled over by Frecklington on the edge of the box, referee Mark Brown had no hesitation in awarding the free kick in an inviting position.
From the resultant set-piece, David Perkins and Stephen Dawson touched the ball into the path of Mellis, who stroked a fantastic effort which arrowed into the top corner of the goal giving Shearer no chance.
The Millers’ almost responded immediately when sub Agard had a sniff of goal following a scramble but his toe-poked effort was diverted to safety by Steele.
However, the visitors’ doubled their advantage on 55 minutes following a swift counter-attack.
After picking up possession on halfway, Dagnall swept a pass into the path of O’Grady, who played a slide-rule pass past sub Craig Morgan into the advancing run of Mellis, who carefully ensured his was on-side, before calmly stroking the ball past Shearer.
The ex-Chelsea midfielder was tormenting the Millers’ and he came within a whisker of his hat-trick when he pounced on the loose ball before showing sub Richard Brindley a clean pair of heels to advance in the box but his drilled effort, which was fizzing past the upright, was cleared by a retreating Mark Bradley.
However, the Tykes soon made it three with 68 minutes on the clock when Perkins’ threaded a superb pass into the path of Dagnall, who worked a yard of space on his marker to find a shooting position and he kept his composure to calmly slot the ball past Shearer into the heart of the home goal.
Despite the game seemingly being as good as over, the Millers’ never gave up and they were rewarded for their efforts with quarter an hour to go when Worrall found Agard, who controlled smartly before ghosting past Lewin Nyatanga with a minimum of fuss and despite having a tight angle, he slide the ball past the outstretched hand of Steele in finding the bottom corner of the goal.
The visitors’ hearts then began to flutter more intently when Rotherham reduced the deficit further with 12 minutes to go.
Following good interplay, Tidser’s stroked the ball wide into the path of Worrall, who cleverly floated a centre which was hung up into the path of Agard, who powered a header past Steele from point-blank range.
Against the run of play, Dagnall almost put the game to bed when he shrugged off the attentions of Arnason after latching onto a Scott Golbourne centre but Shearer stood up tall to preserve home hopes before the ex-Rochdale striker fizzed a shot over moments later.
Despite late efforts from the Millers, Barnsley hung on to claim South Yorkshire bragging rights ahead of their league campaign.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 2 Barnsley 3
Rotherham- Shearer, Skarz (Brindley HT), Arnason, Davis (Morgan HT), Worrall, Frecklington (Noble 65), Revell, Hylton (Rose 65), Bradley, Pringle (Agard HT), Tidser. Subs:- Collin, O’Connor.
Barnsley:- Steele, Cranie, Kennedy, Yves Mvoto, Nyatanga, Mellis (Patterson 72), Dawson, Perkins, Golbourne, Dagnall, O’Grady. Subs:- Dibble, Oates.
Referee:- Mark Brown
Attendance:- 3687 (1252)